In a significant step, the Indian Air Force has decided to buy 100 Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs or UAVs) for surveillance and the security of IAF bases across the country. These drone systems will be bought from Indian vendors or Indian original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
A first-of-its-kind drone attack at the Jammu airbase last year in June exposed the gaps in the security apparatus in force for sensitive military bases and thus highlighted the need to upgrade it to tackle newer threats. Two explosives-laden drones had crashed into the base causing damage to the roof of a building.
The IAF earlier had placed a Rs 155-crore order with Hyderabad-based firm Zen Technologies for the supply of anti-drone systems. The present procurement will be a big impetus to the capability of the Indian Air Force to counter such attacks, officials told News18.
The mini Unmanned Aerial Systems intended to be procured by IAF now will be used for surveillance, reconnaissance, and detection during day and night at various IAF bases, with the capability to carry electro-optic (EO) and thermal imagers, high-altitude operation, and the ability to detect a human-size target from a long distance. This will enable the IAF to detect and counter both enemy UAV attacks as well as terrorist attacks on its bases.
Last year, the National Security Guards (NSG) said it had been deployed at the IAF stations in Srinagar and Jammu to provide anti-drone security cover to these vital installations. A day after the attack on the Jammu airbase, the Indian Army had intercepted two more drones flying over the Kaluchak military base on the outskirts of Jammu city.
Following this, a large number of the orders for UAVs were earlier placed with Indian firms, most of which were under emergency procurement funds. This includes swarm drones, logistics drones as well as explosives-carrying loitering munitions that can detect a target and explode there. A majority of these drones have been procured by the Army alone.
In the last two years, the services have kept their focus on procuring modern platforms including latest technologies, among them a range of UAVs with varying classifications as well as counter-drone systems. A majority of them are for Intelligence-Surveillance-Reconnaissance (ISR) missions.
Local formations of the Army have been procuring micro UAVs for limited surveillance missions. The Navy had also signed a contract with Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) to procure an indigenous comprehensive Naval Anti-Drone System (NADS) with hard-kill and soft-kill features.
There are also plans to upgrade the Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAVs with the forces with advanced satellite communication and sensors for longer surveillance and reconnaissance missions, and arm them with air-to-ground missiles and laser-guided munitions for precision strikes.
However, a case to procure 30 MQ-9B High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) armed drones from the US, 10 for each of the defence services, costing a total of $3 billion, is still pending with the government.